Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants
Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF), Fire Engineering and Fire Risk Management Consultants


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Fire Safety Training, General Considerations

When we consider fire safety, we commonly reflect on physical precautions, such as fire doors, fire extinguishers and escape signage, but all of these can be complimented by fire safety training.  In fact, the adoption of fire safety training should reduce the risk of fire through several means, for example, fire ignition and fire spread.

Fire safety training is the generic term given which basically encompasses education relating to fire.  Whilst the vast majority of people will associate fire with danger, people commonly underestimate the risk posed by fire. 

The importance on fire safety training is highlighted by the fact that a significant number of ‘causes of fire’ are apportioned to human error; similarly, the resulting adverse effects can be increased due to people’s actions in the event of a fire.  On this basis, fire safety training can be used as a tool within the Fire Risk Assessment to reduce the residual risk.

Common problems identified that can be attributed to a lack of fire safety training include basic issues, such as storing combustible items adjacent to potential ignition sources, wedging fire doors open and staff being aware of deficiencies but not reporting them.  As previously discussed, the first two issues will have the effect of increased risk of ignition and subsequent fire spread respectively whilst the third issue allows defects to remain in place.

The level of fire safety training required will vary greatly depending on the occupancy, building and risk level posed.  For example, a small single storey warehouse employing 10 people will require very different training to a multi storey office block with 1,000 occupants (plus a significant visitor population).  Notwithstanding this, there are common areas within training, with the details varying to suit the building.  It must also be noted that the extent of the training must be in line with the Fire Safety Policy & Procedures for the organisation/building.  A key area for consideration in this respect is ‘first aid fire-fighting’ and the training afforded to staff to undertake this.

The main areas to be included within fire safety training are deemed to be:

Legislative requirements:  It is acknowledged that this may be an area that staff struggle to get enthusiastic about, however, staff should have a general appreciation that fire safety, as with much of the health and safety based legislation falls within their level of personal responsibility also.

Basic fire safety awareness:  Occupants should be provided with knowledge related to fire ignition/ fire spread and the conditions required to support combustion.  This can then develop into the dangers of fire and in particular, smoke.

General description of fire precautions/procedures:
  This should include whether the building has features such as a fire alarm, emergency lighting as well as the evacuation strategy in place.  The action to be taken on discovering a fire as well as the action to be taken on hearing the fire alarm should be covered.

Means of escape:
  Where possible, staff should be advised of the escape routes available to them within their place of work.

Fire compartmentation:
  Whilst this can be an area of technical expertise, staff should have a basic appreciation of the fire separation within the building and its reason for being there, an easy and common example is escape stairs.  If occupants understand that compartmentation is in place to reduce fire and smoke spread in order to facilitate their escape, this may reduce inappropriate practices such as propping open fire doors.

Portable fire fighting equipment:
  In most cases, this is the use of fire extinguishers.  There is much debate about the requirement for extinguishers and asking occupants to tackle fires, however there does appear to be some agreement in that persons should have, at minimum, a basic understanding of the types of extinguishers and their use, with a focus on using them only if trained to do so without putting themselves at risk.

The above provides a basic list on some of the areas where fire safety training should be used.  In many ways, due to the advantages gained from fire risk reduction as well as appropriate staff reactions, fire safety training can be viewed as a very simple and cost effective fire safety measure that should not be overlooked.

If you would like to know more – or would like to arrange an appointment to discuss your fire safety requirements – please call Peter Gyere, Marketing Director on 020 8668 8663.

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